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What's new in various product categories; monthly update.

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How the TNNA Shows Have Changed

They reflect positive changes in the industry.

by Janet Perry (February 19, 2007)

(Note: Janet operates Napa Needlepoint in Napa, CA, and has written numerous articles for CLN.)

Circumstances (maintenance of my blog) have conspired to have me read five years of TNNA reports in the last four days. Now that my be a good thing because it's given me a chance to reflect on changes in the needlework market. In no particular order, here are my thoughts:


The last couple of years I've noticed that this aisles at TNNA haven't seemed so crowded. Last year, 2006, the aisles weren't crowded, bu the booths were. This year both seemed empty.

One retailer I know complained after last year's show that it was awful. Because to her mind a crowded show meant a successful show. This in spite of the fact that exhibitors were happy with the sales.

The number of people walking around is absolutely no indication of the success of a show. There can be tons of people milling around but if no one is buying, it isn't a good show.

What I heard from vendors all around is that the show was successful for them. And for myself, I liked the wider aisles and the less frantic atmosphere.

Knitting vs. needlework.

In the past I heard needlework vendors complain that the show was "all knitting." No doubt knitting vendors used to complain it was "all needlepoint." Since both crafts are cyclical, this makes sense. But this year things seemed more in balance.

One thing which changed is that the show was semi-segregated. The yarn/knitting companies were mostly in one part of the hall, the thread/needlepoint companies in another. Vendors and retailers have been asking TNNA to do this for years. And although it wasn't formal, I think it made for a better show for everyone. Retailers weren't tired from passing booths of no interest to them. Vendors profited from the synergy of similar vendors close by.

It's not your Grandmother's Needlepoint!

Needlepoint suffers in the common view of being stuffy and traditional. And certainly when I started going to TNNA in 1998, there were lots of companies selling pre-worked and traditional designs. This year I saw one pre-worked company and the number of companies selling traditional florals was down.

Needlepoint companies are making fresh, new designs which appeal to younger stitchers. This has the potential to change public perceptions about needlepoint, much as the perceptions of knitting have changed. Retailers and vendors alike should capitalize on this as much as possible.

Needlepoint for the time-pressed vs. needlepoint as heirloom.

A characteristic of needlepoint is that it is durable. For a long time, the thought was that if it is going to last, let's make it big, fancy, and worth being an heirloom.

But that doesn't necessarily work in the time-pressed world of sports practices, stitching on airplanes, and stitching during the Super Bowl. A few years ago vendors started listening to their customers and began to bring out more and more small projects. While inventive small projects still abound, I am also starting to see a return to big, impressive, heirloom projects. And these canvases are ravishing a real testament to a stitcher's skill.

That's good because we need to stay connected and we want to make things which are going to last. That rug or lovely pillow you work on at home will go to your grandchildren and be treasured.

There's room for both and we should applaud both.

The Internet and opportunity.

It's hard to be a needlepoint retailer. There's lots of money tied up in inventory, especially canvases. People have less money to spend at your shop. And then there's the Internet.

A few years ago it was rare to find a designer on the web, and shops jealously guarded the designer catalog they had.

But not today. Shops can't stock everything and they know it. But with a designer's website or catalog, they multiply their inventory. Now they don't have to carry that pricey rug canvas; they can show the customer on-line or in a catalog and order it in. Smart shops get a deposit to cover their costs.

Everyone benefits with this arrangement. The consumer gets a wider variety, the shop can concentrate on products which will sell quickly instead of typing up inventory with a canvas which may not sell for awhile, and the vendor gets increased sales for the cost of a catalog or updating their website.

I'm very excited about what I'm seeing in needlepoint, a great mix of people and products which will appeal to many different kinds of people.

(Note: Contact Janet by emailing napaneedlepoint@gmail.com; visit her site at www.napaneedlepoint.com and her blog at www.nuts-about-needlepoint.com. To read previous Category Reports, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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